'Harry Potter' director Chris Columbus to write forthcoming fantasy-adventure series -- EXCLUSIVE

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Image Credit: Peter Mountain

EW has learned exclusively that HarperCollins has acquired the rights to a three-book middle-grade series, House of Secrets, written by filmmaker Chris Columbus and co-authored by young adult author Ned Vizzini. Both the publisher and Columbus, who directed the first two Harry Potter films, are keeping mum about the details about the plot until the first book comes out in spring of 2013, but here’s the general summary:

The Pagett kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . But everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by a troubled fantasy writer with a penchant for the occult. Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Pagett family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world.

Columbus took a moment to talk to EW about House of Secrets.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did the idea for House of Secrets come to you?
CHRIS COLUMBUS: At one point, I started it as a screenplay, so there were about fifty pages of a screenplay that would become the first seven or eight chapters of the book. Then I thought, “Maybe it’d work as a television pilot,” and I immediately discarded that idea because this is something that would be prohibitively expensive for television. Then I put it away and I didn’t think about it, but it was always coming back to me at some point or another. Finally, I thought maybe this would work as a young adult novel for no other reason except I really wanted to see it to its conclusion.

How did you and Ned Vizzini join forces?
With certain film projects and my commitment to a lot of projects at [my production company] 1492, I couldn’t really devote 12 hours a day every day to writing. I wanted to find a co-writer, someone I could bounce ideas back and forth with, and basically bounce chapters back and forth. I brought the idea to my agency and they sent me two writing samples and I sparked to two of them: I read Ned Vizzini’s young adult novel Be More Chill and It’s a Funny Kind of Story, the one that was made into a movie with Zach Galifianakis. I loved his voice, I loved that he had a real strong ear, I loved his youthfulness, his strong ear for teenage dialogue, and I thought it would be good to partner with someone who has a real sense of contemporary culture and a real imagination. We met once in LA and we got along so well and we started talking about the idea, and we said let’s just do it!

As you’re writing the novel, do you find yourself constantly thinking of it as a movie?
Not at all. The thing that Ned and I both wanted to do anything we can do to get kids back into reading and make it really, really fun. I’m not presumptuous enough to say, “We’re going to take over the Potter series,” but I got to see firsthand how that series affected kids and how it got so many hundreds of thousands of kids into reading. You hope for just a section of that in terms of being able to inspire kids to read. And that’s really one of the themes of the book – that reading is essential to your development as a child and as an eventual adult. That really has inspired us in moving forward. So I look at it primarily as working first and foremost as a novel.

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